These are hard times we are living in. In recent months, we have more than once heard chilling words and statements. In his speech to West Point graduating cadets on June 1, 2002, the United States president declared: “Our security will require transforming the military you will lead, a military that must be ready to strike at a moment’s notice in any dark corner of the world.”
That same day, he proclaimed the doctrine of the pre-emptive strike, something no one had ever done in the political history of the world. A few months later, referring to the unnecessary and almost certain military action against Iraq, he said: “And if war is forced upon us, we will fight with the full force and might of the United States army.”
That statement was not made by the government of a small and weak nation, but by the leader of the richest and mightiest military power that has ever existed, which possesses thousands of nuclear weapons, enough to obliterate the world’s population several times over – and other terrifying conventional military systems and weapons of mass destruction.
That is what we are: dark corners of the world. That is the perception some have of the Third World nations. Never before had anyone offered a better definition; no one had shown such contempt. The former colonies of powers that divided the world among them and plundered it for centuries today make up the group of underdeveloped countries.
There is nothing like full independence, fair treatment on an equal footing or national security for any of us; none is a permanent member of the UN Security Council with a veto right; none has any possibility of being involved in the decisions of the international financial institutions; none can keep its best talents; none can protect itself from capital flight or the destruction of nature and the environment caused by the squandering, selfish and insatiable consumerism of the economically developed countries.
After the last global carnage in the 1940s, we were promised a world of peace, a reduction of the gap between the rich and poor and the assistance of the highly developed to the less developed countries. It was all a huge lie. We had imposed on us an unsustainable and unbearable world order.
The world is being driven into a dead end. Within hardly 150 years, the oil and gas it took the planet 300 million years to accumulate will have been depleted. In just 100 years, the world population has grown from 1.5 billion to over 6 billion people, who will have to depend on energy sources that are still to be researched and developed. Poverty continues to grow while old and new diseases threaten whole nations with annihilation. The world’s soil is being eroded and losing its fertility; the climate is changing; the air that we breathe, drinking water and the seas are increasingly contaminated.
Authority is being wrenched away from the United Nations, its established procedures are being obstructed and the organization itself destroyed; development assistance is being reduced; there are continuous demands on the Third World countries to pay a $2.5 trillion debt that cannot be paid under the present circumstances, while 1 trillion dollars are spent in ever more sophisticated and deadly weapons. Why and for what?
A similar amount is spent on commercial advertising, sowing consumerist longings that cannot be satisfied in the minds of billions of people. Why and for what? For the first time the human species is running a real risk of extinction due to the insane behavior of the very same human beings, who are thus becoming the victims of this “civilization.”
However, no one will fight for us, that is, for the overwhelming majority; only we will do it. Only we can save humanity ourselves, with the support of millions of manual and intellectual workers from the developed nations who are conscious of the catastrophes befalling their peoples. Only we can do it by sowing ideas, building awareness and mobilizing global and North American public opinion. No one needs to be told this. You know it very well. Our most sacred duty is to fight, and fight we will.
Fidel Castro is president of the Republic of Cuba. This is an edited version of the speech given at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Feb. 25.